December 2, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – A coalition of opposition parties along with Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) may jointly nominate former prime minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi as candidate to run against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir in the upcoming presidential elections.
- Sudanese presidnt Omer Hassan Al-Bashir (L) and former prime minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi (R)
The Kuwaiti news agency (KUNA) quoting unidentified opposition figures said that an agreement was reached after series of meetings that the Umma party leader should be selected to run against the National Congress Party (NCP) leader for president.
The sources said that the list of possible candidates included First Vice President and South Sudan president Salva Kiir, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, leader of the Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP) Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi and other unidentified figures. They did not say if the Popular Congress Party (PCP) leader Hassan Al-Turabi or Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) chief Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud were considered.
They revealed that the exclusion of Kiir came at the SPLM’s request which saw there was no need for his candidacy for the post with just a few months for the 2011 referendum which ensures he would remain in his current post as first vice president of the country under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The technical committees excluded Mirghani for two reasons; the first is that NCP “now controls most of the historical influence of the Mirghani’s party and the second is the existence of information available to some opposition parties over confidential communications between President Bashir and Mirghani to form a coalition to contest the forthcoming elections”.
The DUP leader has refused to join other opposition parties in a conference held in South Sudan capital of Juba last September for unknown reasons and his party officials gave conflicting positions on the summit amid reports that Mirghani is seeking to forge an alliance with NCP.
Later in the day political figures rushed to deny the report saying that no decision has been made yet but confirmed that the principle of a joint candidate is a strong option.
“If we decide to participate in the elections it is most likely that we will have one person,” said Mariam al-Mahdi, Al-Sadiq’s daughter told Agence France Presse (AFP).
However, she stressed that “no decision has been taken yet” about who to back against Bashir in the election due in April next year.
The SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum said the principle of fielding a joint opposition candidate had been agreed at a congress in September.
“Yes, it is an idea that has been proposed by the secretariat of the Juba conference,” Amum told AFP in an interview.
“Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi is one of the potential candidates, but there are others,” he added.
The leaders of the opposition parties are set to meet later this month to decide on issues including boycotting the elections and the elections strategy should they decide to move ahead with competing.
Al-Mahdi was Prime Minister of Sudan on two occasions: first briefly in 1966-67, and second starting in 1986-1989 before being overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Bashir.
‘ELECTIONS ONLY CHANCE TO BRING A CHANGE’
The URRP leader Mubarak Al-Fadil who has played a major role in bringing the opposition coalition together said that boycotting the elections “should be the last option and not the first one”.
“We are constantly evaluating the political environment and the progress of the voters’ registration process and we will then decide the course of action but we cannot simply surrender and allow the NCP to be the only candidate. Elections is the only chance to bring a change in Sudan, ” Al-Fadil told Sudan Tribune.
“There is almost five weeks before the candidates are allowed to officially declare their candidacy. Many things could happen between now and then so we should not rush in making decisions” he added.
Al-Fadil has said that their monitors have found widespread violations of the elections law including allowing people to register outside the areas where they reside and also Sudanese armed forces and their militias could register at their stations.
“Had we decided to boycott the elections, this fraud would not have been made public. We are aware of the NCP’s ill intentions to defraud the elections but at the same time people must be realize that the NCP is resorting to these tactics because they are weak and could not win in fair and free polls” he added.
The URRP leader said that elections “serve as a catalyst to change and democratic transformation per the CPA and not to maintain the status quo”.
He stressed that all opposition parties along with the SPLM are in agreement about the elections strategy.
Asked about the recent US position questioning the credibility of the April 2010 elections, Al-Fadil credited the “engagement” of the coalition in making Washington and US special envoy Scott Gration “realize the serious flaws in the process”.
“Despite all that we are pushing hard to get as many people to register to vote” he added.
Al-Fadil also noted that Bashir’s status as commander in chief of the army is a breach of the constitution which does not allow him to hold it if he is to run as candidate. He also expressed readiness to support his cousin Al-Mahdi should the other parties decide to tap him for candidacy despite long standing disputes between the two after breaking ranks with him.
The NCP dismissed opposition moves to form an alliance against them in the elections saying the principle is undemocratic.
“We believe that an alliance in an election which is based solely on defeating another party is antidemocratic but we are ready for the contest,” senior NCP official Ibrahim Ghandour told Reuters.
“Parties with different political agenda, from the Muslim Shari’a agenda to the secular agenda, will not come together. If they come together it will be a disaster for the country,” he added.
Observers say that the NCP may get increasingly nervous an alliance against it in the elections despite being in control of state agencies. However, they are also equally skeptical that the opposition parties will follow through citing several parties seeking “under the table” deals with the ruling party.
Reuters said that any alliance would transform the political landscape in Sudan where the NCP, which came to power in a coup in 1989, currently controls more than half of the seats in parliament.